Watandost in Urdu, Turkish and Farsi means "friend of the nation or country". The blog contains news and views about Pakistan and broader South West Asia that are insightful but are often not part of the headlines. It also covers major debates in Muslim societies across the world.
A Good Primer on Islamic Political Parties of Pakistan
Islamic Parties in Pakistan
Asia Report N°21612 Dec 2011
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The ability of Pakistan’s radical Islamic parties to mount limited but potentially violent opposition to the government has made democratic reform, and by extension the reduction of religious extremism and development of a more peaceful and stable society, more challenging. This is a reflection of those parties’ well-organised activist base, which is committed to a narrow partisan agenda and willing to defend it through violence. While their electoral support remains limited, earlier Islamisation programs have given them a strong legal and political apparatus that enables them to influence policy far beyond their numerical strength. An analysis of party agendas and organisation, as well as other sources of influence in judicial, political and civil society institutions, is therefore vital to assessing how Pakistan’s main religious parties apply pressure on government, as well as the ability and willingness of the mainstream parties that are moderate on religious issues to resist that pressure.
These parties’ ability to demonstrate support for their various agendas is an expression of coherent internal structures, policymaking processes and relations between the leadership and the rank-and-file. These aspects of party functioning are, therefore, as critical to understanding their role in the polity and prospects of influencing policy in the future as in understanding their relationship to the state.
The Islamic parties that are the subject of this report might operate within the current political order, but their ultimate aim is to replace it with one that is based on narrow, discriminatory interpretations of Islam. They have also taken equivocal positions on militant jihad: on the one hand, they insist on their distinction from militant outfits by virtue of working peacefully and within the democratic system; on the other, they admit to sharing the ideological goal of enforcing Sharia (Islamic law), while maintaining sizeable madrasa and mosque networks that are breeding grounds for many extremist groups.
Moreover, belying their claims of working peacefully, the major Islamic parties maintain militant wings, violent student organisations and ties to extremist groups, and have proved more than willing to achieve political objectives through force. After parlaying military support during the 1980s into significant political and legislative gains, and even absent military support and the electoral assistance that entailed, the parties have still been able to defend earlier gains through intimidation and violent agitation on the streets. In response, faced with their opposition, the mainstream moderate parties have often abandoned promised reforms while in government, or even made further concessions, such as the National Assembly’s constitutional amendment in 1974 declaring the Ahmadi sect non-Muslim.
Such compromises have not offset the pressure of the ulama (religious scholars), as intended, but only emboldened religious hardliners.
The News, June 24, 2006 Saudi ban on umra visa Rahimullah Yusufzai
As expected, the government of Saudi Arabia has refused to lift the ban on Pakistanis below the age of 40 years from performing umra. It was futile on the part of federal religious affairs minister Mohammad Ejazul Haq to visit Riyadh to try and make the Saudis change their mind on the issue. The Saudis formulate their policies after much thinking and in line with their national interest and decisions once taken are rarely changed.
Back home, Ejazul Haq sounded defensive when he told reporters that the ban would stay because the Saudi government had complained that over 100,000 Pakistanis had overstayed in Saudi Arabia after reaching there on the pretext of performing umra. Before leaving for Saudi Arabia, he had expressed concern over the Pakistan-specific umra restriction and had promised to take up the matter with the Saudi authorities. One could understand that he was on a weak wicket and could only request the Saudis…
The Indian chromosome By Dr Farrukh Saleem
The News, December 09, 2007
Twenty-five thousand years ago, haplogroup R2 characterized by genetic marker M124 arose in southern Central Asia. Then began a major wave of human migration whereby members migrated southward to present-day India and Pakistan (Genographic Project by the National Geographic Society; http://www.nationalgeographic.com/). Indians and Pakistanis have the same ancestry and share the same DNA sequence. Here's what is happening in India:
The two Ambani brothers can buy 100 percent of every company listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) and would still be left with $30 billion to spare. The four richest Indians can buy up all goods and services produced over a year by 169 million Pakistanis and still be left with $60 billion to spare. The four richest Indians are now richer than the forty richest Chinese.
In November, Bombay Stock Exchange's benchmark Sensex flirted with 20,000 points. As a consequence, Mukesh …
Measure for measure: What Pakistan needs to do for effective and sustainable counterterrorism By Hassan Abbas,
Herald, January 2015 Annual edition
“Extremis malis extrema remedia,” is how a famous Latin saying goes, expressing the idea that “extreme situations require extreme remedies”. This sounds logical on the face of it but in reality it is a myth. Over the years, I have heard from so many Pakistani friends with various backgrounds that “Pakistan needs an Imam Khomeni”, implying that nothing short of a bloody revolution, which may take thousands of lives, is going to work for the country. Those who make this argument know little about the causes that led to the Islamic revolution in Iran – or for that matter the factors leading to the French or Russian revolutions.
The idea of military courts to tackle terrorism is a similar notion based on the fallacy that the use of hard power can deliver goods under all circumstances. Military means can indeed be – and, perhaps, must be – part o…